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Iraq slams Bahrain statement on paramilitary base attacks

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa

Iraq has condemned comments by Bahrain's top diplomat describing alleged Israeli strikes on the powerful Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) paramilitary force as "self-defence."

A string of IMIS bases across Iraq have been hit by explosions and drone sightings over the past five weeks that the force has blamed on Israel and the US.

Earlier this week, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa accused Iran of "declaring war on us" through allied armed groups, including the IMIS in Iraq.  

"Whoever strikes them and destroys their stacks of equipment cannot be blamed. This is self-defence," he wrote on Twitter. 

The comments prompted a sharp response from the Iraqi foreign ministry in an online statement late Wednesday.

"The foreign ministry rejects and condemns the Bahraini foreign minister's tweet about the recent attacks on Arab territories and the IMIS by Zionist enemy under the pretext of self-defence," it wrote.

It was the first time the Iraqi government had referred to attacks on the IMIS as carried out by Israel, although a statement by the presidency earlier this week said it was investigating "indications of foreign involvement." 

The IMIS has accused Israel of carrying out the latest attack on one of its units near the Iraqi-Syrian border on August 25.

The IMIS was established in 2014 from disparate armed groups and volunteers, most of them Shiites, to fight the ISIS group and has received Iranian training.

Ties between Iraq and Bahrain have been strained in recent months, with demonstrators swarming the Bahrani embassy in Baghdad in June to protest Manama's hosting of a US-led Middle East peace conference. 

A few months prior, Iraq had demanded a formal apology from Bahrain's foreign minister for a tweet about firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that Baghdad deemed "offensive."